Archive for March, 2013

Why is Peer Pressure a Big Deal?

Peer pressure often comes with a bunch of negative connotations. It has long been blamed for alcoholism, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, school failure, tobacco abuse, and other unfortunate events that could potentially befall any teenager.

teen peer pressureBut what is it about peer pressure that forces someone to engage in risky behaviors? Why does it matter so much, especially in adolescents?

The truth of the matter is, peer pressure happens to everyone of us at some point in our lives. Some are good peer pressure, but many can be identified as negative peer pressure.

In his book Living with Peer Pressure and Bullying, Dr. Thomas Paul Tarshis defined peer pressure as the influence of other people’s perceptions on your decisions or actions. It can enter our lives in several different ways, such as in the form of comments made by classmates or peers outside of school; exposure to material items; and the pressure to perform certain behaviors.

With teenagers, peer pressure is deemed important because the choice made when dealing with it influences the success or failure of their future. As a teenager, the opinions of your friends and classmates in your choice of clothes, music or school becomes more important than that of your parents. The same goes for the more serious topics, such as drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity.

Dr. Tarshis explained some of the reasons why teens are forced to give in to negative peer pressures, which include the concern of losing a friend or making a new one; the concern about being teased; the fear of being left out or being bullied. Some teens who may feel that the consequences of not giving in to peer pressure are worse than feeling guilty about doing something that’s wrong.

Teens who are at higher risk of giving in to peer pressure are those who have poor self-esteem and confidence; poor family support; lack of hobbies or interests; lack of friends; and poor school performance. Kids who just moved to a new school or city are also vulnerable to giving in to peer pressure for the sake of gaining approval and acceptance.

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Study Shows Children of Divorced Parents More Likely to Engage in Smoking

Time and again, health experts remind us about how a harmonious home can help in raising healthy kids. Children who grew in a violence- and drug-free home have high self-esteem and more resilient when struck with stress and adversities. Now there’s another reason why parents should strive hard in giving their kids a peaceful and loving household.

children of divorced parentsAccording to the researchers from the University of Toronto, children of divorced parents are at higher risk to develop smoking habit.

The researchers analyzed data of more than 19,000 American adults, and found that men who experienced parental divorce before they turned 18 are at 48 percent greater risk of smoking. Meanwhile, women who experienced parental divorce before turning 18 were 39 percent more likely to smoke than women from intact families.

“Finding this link between parental divorce and smoking is very disturbing,” lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Chair at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said in a university news release.

The researchers anticipated that the association between smoking and parental divorce can be explained by one or more of the following factors: lower levels of education or adult income among the children of divorce; adult mental health issues (e.g. depression or anxiety among the children of divorce); or other co-occurring early childhood traumas, such as parental addictions or childhood physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Upon examining a representative sample of 7,850 men and 11,506 women aged 18 and over, the researchers found that more than 1,500 men and more than 2,300 women had experienced their parents’ divorce before they reached the age of 18. A total of 4,316 men and 5,072 women reported that they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their life.

The data analyzed by the researchers were drawn from the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey.

Co-author Joanne Filippelli, a University of Toronto doctoral student, said it is possible that “children upset by their parents” divorce may use smoking as a coping mechanism to regulate emotions and stress. Some research suggests this calming effect may be particularly attractive to those who have suffered early adversities.”

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How Body Image Issues Can Trigger Substance Abuse

Being physically attractive can win someone a lot of favors. Whether you just want to be popular at school, land a prestigious job or get promoted at work, how you look in the outside carries some weight as to whether or not you will achieve your heart’s desires. This is precisely one of the major reasons why many teenagers resort into crash diets, take weight loss supplements or use steroids — all for the call of physical beauty.

eating disorders and substance abuseAn October 2012 campus survey conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that 27.8 percent of female undergraduates, 11.8 percent of male undergraduates, 21.5 percent of female graduate students, and 10.3 percent of male graduate students on campus had eating disorders. More than 80 percent of women and 96 percent of men who were struggling with an eating disorder had not received treatment in the past year.

The researchers found that students who diet regularly dislike their bodies, fear gaining weight and seldom seek help for eating disorders.

But if you think the problem stops there, think again, because eating disorders can be a culprit in a person’s substance abuse problems.

The 2003 study, titled Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders, conducted by The National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that people with eating disorders are up to five times more likely to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs and those who abuse alcohol or illicit drugs are up to 11 times more likely to have eating disorders.

High school girls with eating disorders are at greater risk to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use drugs than those without eating disorders. Similarly, girls who smoke, drink or use drugs are at higher risk to report past month eating disorder symptoms than those who do not have substance abuse issues.

The study concluded that individuals with eating disorders abuse caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin and over-the-counter medications such as diuretics, emetics or laxatives to suppress appetite, increase metabolism and purge themselves.

Marci Warhaft, the woman behind Fit vs. Fiction, knows exactly what makes kids today so obssessed with their appearance and the need to look good.

“It seems like you can’t flip open a magazine or turn on the TV without being inundated with images of impossibly beautiful, seemingly flawless women,” Warhaft explained. “As a result, so many young girls feel like they just don’t measure up and become desperate to change the way they look, even at the risk of damaging their health through risky weight loss behaviours. The same goes for the boys. I hear from boys as young as nine years old who are completely ashamed of their bodies because they don’t have the chiselled abs or bulging bicep muscles they see on actors on tv or at the movies.”

It’s common knowledge that many boys who want to beef up their bodies would rather take the easy route, that is, using anabolic steroids. But while steroids really help in improving strength and muscles, they are also associated with negative side effects, such as baldness, increased risk of prostate cancer, infertility, acne, bloated appearance, swelling of feet and ankles, and penile enlarged, to name a few. That’s not all; steroids users may eventually experience depression, irritability, anxiety, delusions, and other psychological problems.

Warhaft emphasized the importance of fostering a healthy environment at home. She said parents and children should be able to discuss weight issues at home as openly and honestly as possible. Encouraging the kids to become physically active is also a good way to help kids maintain a HEALTHY look as opposed to the kind of appearance they see among movie stars.

“Our fitness goals shouldn’t be about fitting into skinny jeans or a string bikini, but should be about FEELING strong and healthy,” Warhaft added. “We need to get our kids involved in activities that help them appreciate the amazing things their bodies can DO, so they won’t become preoccupied with how they look.”

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Dangerous Drinks For Kids

The world is becoming unsafe by the minute. Illegal drugs are everywhere and taking on new forms every now and then to avert the law. Alcohol is being mixed with soda or fruit juices to create a concoction that is more appealing to the youth. Lately, we’ve been hearing about the controversies surrounding energy drinks and the beverage’s negative impact to the health. Somehow, parents are left wondering if their kids can still go to any party where they won’t be lured into trying drinks laced with drugs or harmful ingredients.

Here are some dangerous beverages that may result in risky behaviors:

dangerous drinksGreen Dragon
This drink is created by placing a certain amount of marijuana in alcoholic beverages, such as brandy and vodka. Surprisingly, many online forums demonstrate how one can produce this concoction. Some of the side effects of drinking green dragon include getting high or experiencing “floating” feeling, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, chest pain, and fatigue.

Purple Drank
Also known as sizzurp or purple jelly, the drink’s main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine. The cough syrup is typically mixed with soda like Sprite or Mountain Dew to produce a purplish hue concoction. This drink was popularized in the hip hop community in the United States, and is now a common sight in many party and clubs. But according Dr. George Fallieras, of the Good Samaritan Hospital, consuming large amounts of codeine and promethazine can cause peple to stop breathing.

Death Juice
This drink is a mixture of cocaine, marijuana, oxycontin, two different types of cough syrup, and beer. It is said to be mysteriously delicious, but poisonously intoxicating given the amount of the drugs used to make it.

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DPH Shares Ways to Fight Substance Abuse

North Carolina’s Dare County Department of Public Health recently held a meeting in the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall to talk about the department’s substance abuse initiative, and demonstrate household items that can be used by kids to hide drugs or alcohol.

substance abuse treatmentKelly Nettnin, public health education coordinator with Dare County DPH, offered a handful of tips on how parents can prevent kids from using alcohol and drugs. Like other health experts, she agrees that substance abuse can strike to any family, and the temptation of drugs can present itself even to the well-raised kids.

“You can do absolutely everything right as a parent and still have a child develop those problems,” the Sentinel quoted Nettnin as saying.

But Nettnin stressed the importance of communication in helping kids make sound choices, as well as spotting signs of substance abuse. She explained that parental involvement, such as making connection with your kids’ friends and their parents, can go a long way in determining the kind of crowd your kids hang out with.

Additionally, parents are encouraged to “monitor their children’s use of the internet, which is often used to purchase illicit substances.”

“If your kid is on Facebook,” Nettnin emphasized, “I highly recommend that you are on Facebook and that you stalk them.”

To foster effective communication within the family, parents should learn to speak on the child’s level, and maintain an ongoing conversation about substance abuse and the dangers associated with it.

Other tips for effective communication include:

  • asking open ended questions
  • evaluating your dialogue
  • remembering that teens are capable of making mature, responsible decisions with the support of parental guidance
  • eating dinner around the table together with no TV or cell phones at least five times a week

“When your child does come to you with a problem,” Nettnin added, “do not overreact. Try to keep your cool. They’ll be more likely to come to you later.”

Other strategies parents can do to prevent kids from getting into drugs are:

  • encouraging the child to get involved in extracurricular activities
  • being an active part of their life
  • setting clear and consistent standards and rules
  • enforcing positive attitude toward school
  • fostering a healthy sense of self
  • encouraging positive attitude toward school
  • maintaining a safe and health-promoting environment

Nettnin noted that parents should be absolutely clear on their position on drug and alcohol use by communicating their attitudes and values, and confronting the child with facts, not judgment.

“If your child asks if you used alcohol or drugs, remember that the issue isn’t your past, but your child’s future,” Nettnin shares. “Your job as a parent is not to make sure your child likes you – it’s to make sure he makes it to 18 years of age alive and healthy and well.”

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Idaho High School Educates Kids About Inhalants and Other Drugs of Abuse

It’s sad to hear that despite warnings about the dangers of inhalants, teens continue to experiment with them only because they want to get high.

inhalant abuseIn Los Angeles, a 14-year-old girl reportedly died this week after inhaling a computer keyboard cleaner. Drug experts believe inhaling toxic substances, or huffing, is a growing trend in kids these days, and many parents are unaware that many household products can be the culprit.

“It was really scary to read that and really sad, because i know with inhalants, with that and really sad, because i know with inhalants, wit that young lady and it may be the first time she’s ever done…it totally changes your body’s ability to asphyxiate yourself and you could die the very first time,”  Mike Gemar, Canyon Ridge High School Vice-Principal, told KMVT.

Gemar knows a lot about inhalants because he attended training on it, and one of the important things he learned is how inhalants can affect the brain and the central nervous system. Unfortunately, at least 1 in 5 kids inhale some type of chemical or toxic substance before reaching 8th grade.

Given this information, Canyon Ridge High School is stepping up its fight against substance abuse by educating students as young as 8th graders about inhalants. There are also available resources on campus to help students make informed decisions about drug use and abuse.

Brady Dickinson, the principal at Canyon Ridge, said their students study the dangers of drug use as part of the health curriculum. Similarly, the effects of substance abuse, both short- and long-term, are shared to the students to raise awareness.

Inhalants are considered drugs under the school district’s policy. Dickinson adds that the policy is aimed at preventing kids from using drugs and educating them about their health.

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